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Former GOP campaign strategist charged in child sex trafficking conspiracy

Anton 'Tony' Lazzaro was arrested by FBI agents and later charged in a federal court on Thursday.
Credit: Getty Images

MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge indicted a Minneapolis man for allegedly soliciting sex from six minors.

Anton Joseph Lazzaro, also known as "Tony Lazzaro," 30, is accused of conspiring with other people to recruit and solicit six underage victims to engage in "commercial sex acts," according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Minnesota.

The Department of Justice accuses him of soliciting sex with the victims from May to December 2020, according to the news release.

Lazzaro was a former campaign strategist for GOP candidate Lacy Johnson, who ran an unsuccessful bid in 2020 to unseat Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar. Lazzaro's current Twitter profile lists him as founder of Big Tent Republicans PAC.

FBI agents arrested Lazzaro Thursday morning and later in the day he was charged in federal court.

Lazzaro is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors, five counts of sex trafficking of minors, one count of attempted sex trafficking of a minor and three counts of obstruction of justice. 

Officials say he will remain in custody pending a formal detention hearing on Aug. 16.

The investigation involved the FBI, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the Minneapolis Police Department, the West Hennepin Public Safety Department and the Wright County Sheriff’s Office.

Investigators believe there may be more victims.

The Republican Party of Minnesota issued a statement on Friday, saying the party will donate Lazzaro's financial contributions.

"If the allegations against Mr. Anton Lazzaro are true, this is an abhorrent act that we condemn in the highest possible terms," Minnesota GOP chair Jennifer Carnahan said in a statement. "The Republican Party of Minnesota will be donating the contributions that Mr. Lazzaro has given our organization to charity. Sex trafficking is a heinous act that preys on victims of all ages, races, and backgrounds, and warrants severe punishment by our judicial system. A full investigation is necessary to ensure due process is provided to all parties involved."

GOP Attorney General candidate Doug Wardlow and former U.S. Senate candidate Karin Housley issued similar individual statements, saying they would both make similar donations to the Women's Foundation of Minnesota in amounts matching Lazzaro's donations to their campaigns.

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